Are carbs the enemy?
Carbs often get a bad rap especially with diets sprawled across social media, unfortunately this not only has a negative psychological effect on women, altering the way we view and feel about food but it can negatively impact us from a physiological standpoint too.
I see it all too often, ladies jumping on a low carb or keto diet, thinking it holds the key to all of their body goals. Indeed, they may see progress initially due to a loss in water and glycogen, only to see them struggling shortly after.
In the short term, it seems like low-carb diets are superior, however this is a fallacy. All diets work, period, assuming the calorie equation is correct (calories in vs calories out). The question is then, why would anyone want to lose weight in a way that can be detrimental to your overall health? Lethargy, insomnia, low libido, decreased physical output and mood issues are all common signs I see in women who chose to undertake this route. I don’t know about you, but none of those side effects seem appealing to me.
If you are a woman who trains with intensity, frequently, who experiences some stress in daily life and is currently striving for a better body composition, then carbs are your friend’s Queens, not your foe.
Adequate amounts of carbs can work wonders for your mental and physical health whilst including foods you like, so you never feel deprived.
Here are some of the reasons why we should all eat some carbs today:
- Primary fuel for training and recovery
Carbs provide the muscles with glycogen, this is the preferred energy source by the body for physical output. Glycogen is also required for muscle building and recovery.
- Reduces cortisol
When cortisol levels are high, and they stay high, it can lead to increased systemic inflammation, poor gut health, low energy, decreased libido, a weakened immune system, insomnia, weight gain and mood disorders - none of these are something we want to happen in the body. Carbohydrates elevate blood sugar more than protein and fat. When blood sugar goes up, cortisol goes down. As you will see below, carbs also raise serotonin, our happiness hormone, the more serotonin we have, the less cortisol we have.
- Improved mood
The connection between carbs and mood lies completely with tryptophan, which is a nonessential amino acid. As more tryptophan enters the brain more serotonin (our happy hormone) is synthesized and mood becomes elevated.
- Aids in thyroid function
The key to a proper functioning metabolism is a thriving thyroid function. As we know, our metabolic function is quintessential to weight loss and energy. There a few thyroid hormones, however, T3 is the most active thyroid hormone. When carbs are too low, your T3 levels will drop, which means your metabolic function decreases. By ensuring we get enough carbs, T3 is able to do its job efficiently. If you’re trying to smash goals in the gym, then you need adequate energy and carb intakes for a healthy thyroid function.
- Improved sleep
For so long we were told not to eat carbs after dark, so what if I told you eating carbs at dinner or before bed is not only good for you but will help your sleep too? I don’t mean sugary carbs like ice-cream and chocolatey cereals, these can actually adversely affect sleep with blood sugar spikes. I’m talking low gi carbs like oats, rice, sweet potato, lentils etc. Eating slow digesting carbs before bed will increase serotonin synthesis, helping you feel more relaxed and calm. Slow digesting carbs also help regulate your blood sugar whilst you sleep which means a more restful night with less waking periods throughout the night. If you train in the morning, carbs before bed is also a wonderful idea as it means stored glycogen, ready to be utilised for your morning session.
- Gut Microbiome and fibre
The key to a flourishing gut microbiome is a vast diversity of nutrients. Healthy carbs like fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes are loaded with fibre and nutrients that nourish our guts and overall wellbeing. When we start cutting carbs, we naturally reduce or eliminate these food sources, which means less biodiversity in our guts. The secret to overall optimal wellness is a happy gut so ensure you treat it will.
To conclude, carbs are not only delicious, but they play an integral role in optimal health and wellness. Most of us will look, feel, and perform our best when we consume a balanced diet including lean protein, quality carbs, and healthy fats. Cutting carbs is not the answer, the calorie equation is, so go eat that pasta girl!
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